September 08, 2009

Vanity Fair Discusses Personal Branding


A recent article in Vanity Fair Magazine by contributing author, James Walcott, titled, What’s a Culture Snob to Do?, discusses the current dilemma facing Culture Snobs caused by the pervasive effects of technology. In our society today, many people personally brand themselves by the material possessions they own. The book you read proudly while riding on the bus; the CD collection waiting to be perused by the next passenger that hops into your car; and the DVD collection that is displayed on the shelves in your home waiting to be fawned over by the next house guest, are all outwards displays of your inner being. Whether or not you would like to admit it, our society is quick to make snap judgments about a person’s character based upon the book titles seen in the arms of their readers. This judgment serves as a bit of a status check. What kind of person do you expect to be lugging around the 7th book in the Harry Potter series, a James Patterson Novel, or Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by President Barack Obama? The timeless saying, never judge a book by its cover, seems to not only apply to the content within the book, but also to the content within the reader of the book.

New technological advancements, namely the Kindle reader, make it nearly impossible for an onlooker to know what kind of material this technologically advanced reader is paying attention to. Therefore, thanks to the personalized nature of such hand held devices, we are unable to make a snap judgment about one’s character.

Books fill bookshelves, and also help us to brand our identity. Walcott elaborates on this role of the book as a branding tool by saying that, “at the rate technology is progressing … we may eventually be traipsing around culturally nude in an urban rain forest, androids seamlessly integrated with our devices.” Technology will one day rid the world of some of the simplest of life’s pleasures; book cover jackets, flipping the pages of a magazine while waiting in a convenient store line, and book shelves lined with physical books.

The same trend is taking place in the world of music. iPod’s, MP3 players, and other portable music devices are replacing the expansive CD collections so many music lovers have worked years to complete. Nowadays, hoping into the passenger seat of a friend’s car and flipping through the pages of a CD album book are replaced with a few clicks to an iPod playlist, and you’re off. Musicians pride themselves on the vast music collections they have worked years and years to build up, now this hard work is being filed into tiny electronic devices to be concealed from the public eye.

Will this art of branding your identity through your literary and musical selections become obsolete with the technologically, yet strikingly private nature of today’s books and music? Many of our past years have been spent defining ourselves through our possessions, those things that are visible on our bodies as we make our way through life. Now, in a world of changing technology, how will we brand ourselves without our tangible objects to tote around, giving onlookers a peep-hole view into our intellectual being?

Contributed by Carrie Friedrich

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